Jamini Roy, “the unlettered outlaw” of the art world who decided to “settle for the local, the primitive, and the indigenous” – West Bengal

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The 125th birth centenary of Jamini Roy, ‘the unlettered outlaw’ of the art world, is being celebrated at the NGMA.

In 1931, an exhibition of Jamini Roy’s paintings at his Calcutta residence was inaugurated by ballerina and Indologist Stella Kramrisch. Writing on it, Shanta Devi, daughter of Modern Review editor-owner and later Hindu Mahasabha president Ramananda Chatterjee, described in great detail how three rooms of Roy’s house had been transformed into a “traditional Bengali setting” complete with village pats (palm leaves) and alpona (decorative floor drawings). Eighty-two years later, on Roy’s 125th birth anniversary, the National Gallery of Modern Art does not wear a Bengali look. There are no little lamps, no incense, as Shanta Devi wrote, and of course, no alpona. […]

At the exhibition, paintings from different points in the artist’s trajectory are on display: the early days influenced by the naive style of Sunayani Devi, niece of poet Rabindranath Tagore and sister of Abanindranath; folk and western idioms; almond eyes inspired by patachitra artists; lyrical, evocative and sensuous lines; bright colours, earthy setting and the dominance of the local over the national. […]

If calligraphic lines help in simplifying the forms, a task Roy took very seriously, a flat technique lends a distinctive aura to the Santhal women. […]

Deconstructing Jamini Roy’s poetic lines, bold colours and idioms through the prisms of form and technique would not only be an affront to the genius from Beliatore village in Bankura but also offer a seriously compromised narrative of Indian nationalism. Here was a man well trained in the academic style at the Government Art College, Calcutta, who chose to negotiate his art through politics and successfully marry the two. In the process, politics influenced Jamini Roy’s choice of form, technique and everything else. It was not an easy task to defy the historicism of the Bengal school and settle for the local, the primitive, and the indigenous. It was his desire to practice an art whose inner thoughts he could enter that took him to Beliatore where, at the feet of folk artists, he learnt to be simple and expressive. Call it an act of defiance against colonial rule, Jamini Roy’s reliance on the local and his emphasis on the rural both in form and technique was an overtly political act. But as the exhibition makes it amply clear, it came at a price. Roy had to unlearn a few things. He had to, as art historian Partha Mitter points out, forsake oil for tempera and concentrate on primary colours. […]

Source: “When almond eyes beckon” by Akshcaya Mukul, The Times of India,  13 July 2013
Address: http://www.timescrest.com/culture/when-almond-eyes-beckon-10735
Date Visited: Sun Aug 09 2015 12:07:10 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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